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Connect with your Kids… Digitally

Make Technology a Force for Good in your Family

Technology as a “force for good” in your family may sound a little (a lot) counter-intuitive at first.  We hear about the downside of technology on a fairly consistent basis these days.  And, whilke it is true that everything with tech is not always “hunky dory”, technology has many amazing things to offer when used responsibly.  With a little research (see Social Media – Be There for Your Child), an open mind, and some perseverance, you and your children can enjoy the upside of healthy technology while avoiding the pitfalls.

The most critical component of your kids’ ability to safely and successfully navigate today’s technology landscape has nothing to do with technology.  In most situations, their success is highly contingent on their relationships with their parents… as in YOU!  Of course, the love and trust between parent and child is the cornerstone of much of a child’s development.  How and when our kids use technology is no different.

Kids need to know that Mom and Dad have expectations with regard to apps, games, social media, messaging, and even television.. do kids watch TV these days.  They need to understand that their use of technology is a privilege and not a right.  Most children do not have the financial means to purchase and maintain their computers, tablets, and phones, not to mention the requisite networking and data plans that make them useful.  As such, we parents need to be direct in explaining that we have every right to impose rules and consequences when our children misuse technology.

More Important than Control… Connection

All the “control efforts’ in the world will not keep a child from “exploring” or making the occasional “error in judgement”.  The stronger our relationships with them and the closer our connections, the less traumatic these missteps will be.  Admittedly, connecting with our kids on their own “digital turf” (i.e. SnapChat, Instagram, etc.) is going to be difficult, if not impossible.  It’s not that they don’t want to connect with us online.  It’s just that they don’t want us imposing on the connections they are building with their peers.  What Families need are solutions (apps) that are custom built for Parents and Kids.

And this raises an interesting question, “what do parents and kids both find important enough to actually get them to use a common app”?  Given all of the obligations and activities we find ourselves trying to manage these days, it turns out that sharing basic information about schedules, assignments, documentation and the like is critically important to every member of the family.  FamPlan brings all of this information together in one place, and brings it to life with a “social feed” that allows family members to discuss this information in context.

And the best part, the kids can now contribute and learn to be responsible for their own schedules and activities.  If you have ever tried to teach the kids to use a calendar, you already know that paper calendars just don’t meet these “Digital Natives'” needs.  They want their information with them and available at all times.  If we are honest with ourselves, we parents do also.  We have these capabilities through our employers, and perhaps even with our spouse.  But, a shared Family solution, designed to engage the kids has been, until now, out of reach.

In summary, be purposeful in your efforts to connect with your children digitally.  The shared experience (aka “Connection”) will provide the opportunity to guide their learning and ensure they have positive experiences with their technology.

Happy Parenting!

This is Part 3 of a 5 Part Series on Kids and Social Media

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Social Media & The Attention Economy

What is the “Attention Economy” you ask.  Great question… scary answer!

Some of the world’s most recognized technology brands, like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are in a race for our attention.  They no longer have a choice.  These “solutions” are backed by business models that rely on money from advertisers that, quite literally, pay for our attention.  And, since we only have so much time in a day to engage in social media, these tech titans must continually design and deploy increasingly addictive techniques to keep us “hooked” and glued to their app!

As adults, we must learn to treat this phenomenon as we would any addiction.  A little knowledge, recognition that the threat exists, reasonable goals, and “all things in moderation” and we will probably be OK.  But, what does the Attention Economy mean to our children?

Unfortunately, this problem is one that affects both adults and adolescents.  And, the younger (and less mature) among us have little chance of dealing with this problem on their own.  Social Media has conditioned a generation of children to view “Likes”, “Streaks”, and “Shares” as a measure of their self-worth.  This has been so successful that it is now commonly believed that children are less capable of forming real friendships (see TED Harvard Happiness Study), and engaging with those friends in healthy, face-to-face conversations and activities.

To be direct, the Attention Economy is negatively impacting the health of our children… both in the present and well into their futures.

What Can We Do?  Family is the Key!

First, we must all agree that we cannot count on the large technology companies to be part of the solution.

Second, we must all educate ourselves.  Groups like Center for Humane Technology, Siempo, and #UseTech4Good are great places to start.

Third, connect “digitally” with your children.  As counterproductive as this may sound, we have to be engaged with our children where the problem exists.  We recommend you start with FamPlan.

Fourth, go to extremes to create opportunities for Relationships & Experiences.

And finally, share everything you learn with your children.  They will benefit from your efforts more than you can imagine!

This is Part 1 of a 5 Part Series on Kids & Social Media

 

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Our Children’s Connection Crisis

The Connection Crisis is real, and it is here to stay!

You may be thinking, “I have never heard this term before.  What is a ‘connection crisis’?  Mankind has never been more connected.”  And, in a span of seconds, you have accurately identified the underlying challenge.

Over the past 10 years, we have all been sold an “untruth”.  Not a deliberate lie.  And, certainly not for malicious purposes.  Since the introduction of the smartphone, or more accurately, the proliferation of social media and social communication “apps”, we have been spoon fed the consistent (and continual) message that “the more connections we have, the happier we will be”.

Unfortunately, many of us – and, especially our children – have traded this interpretation for the correct one;

“positive, meaningful CONNECTION makes us happy

Likes, Streaks, and 2000 “friends” are not designed to make us happy.  They are designed (literally by thousands of software engineers) to command our attention… to entice us to use one solution more than another, in the interest of maximizing advertising revenue.  As stated earlier, I do not believe the intent is nefarious.  However, you can be confident that the “owners” of these “solutions” are not in the position to make significant changes in favor of our mental health… multi-billion dollar valuations will not allow it to happen.

So, if the sources of the problem are unlikely to change, how can we, as individuals and families, contend with these huge corporations that are [inadvertently] wrecking havoc among an entire generation?  And more importantly, how do we protect our children and prepare them to remain safe when we are not there to safeguard them directly?

As with most worthwhile causes, there are three actions we can all take.  First, we must educate ourselves… both on the causes and results of The Connection Crisis, as well as the actions we might take to make a positive difference.  Second, we need to support the teams and individuals on the front lines.  There are a growing number of companies and organizations that provide a wealth of information and solutions that can help.  And finally, we must all put what we learn into action and encourage others to do the same.  It may take a bit more effort than learning how to apply rabbit ears to a selfie.  But, rest assured, the rewards will far outweigh the investment.

In conclusion, please know that there are many of us who are  dedicating our careers and lives to making a difference.  We do so because we believe everyone has an inalienable right to be happy.  In today’s “uber-connected” world… we can all use a little reminder of the value of “real connection”, and a bit of help in creating that connection… especially our children!